Tag Archives: Beijing Film Academy

Chinese Animators Chase A Character Of Their Own

As reported by Jonathan Landreth in The Wall Street Journal

The world’s second-largest economy has never produced its own version of Pokémon or Buzz Lightyear. Could the solution be a bean-curd-based riff on Pinocchio?

Cue “Tofu Boy,” a $5 million film slated for fall 2014 release, whose makers hope the character whets the world’s appetite for Chinese animation.

“We’re creating Chinese-themed content with international resonance,” says Kevin Geiger, a Walt Disney Animation veteran who now heads a Beijing-based start-up studio, Magic Dumpling Entertainment. “Tofu Boy” is “inspired by but not based on” the Pinocchio story, he says. “A good little boy who’s a bit mischievous is something every parent in the world can relate to.”

He and his partners, director Sun Lijun, scriptwriter Yan Yi and chief creative officer Feng Wen, began work on “Tofu Boy” in 2009 and now share digital sketches on their iPads with coffee-shop patrons, solicit plot feedback from neighborhood kids, and grill distributors who claim to know local moviegoers best.

“We’re trying to give Chinese audiences a sense of ownership,” Mr. Geiger says. “They’re so tired of period pieces, but people are reluctant to do something modern because it sometimes bumps up against the censors. It’s safer to do something set in the past. But Pixar tells movies about now. ‘Toy Story’ is set today.‘Wall-E’ is set in the future. Why can’t Chinese animation be the same? If we can create content that Chinese feel they own, but that also has an international-quality story and design, then it can do well overseas.”

First it must resonate with Chinese audiences. Mr. Sun, the head of the animation department at the Beijing Film Academy and director of the animated movie “Legend of a Rabbit,” helped play up Tofu Boy’s culturally Chinese aspects. “His notes always incorporate something traditional,” Mr. Yan says.

Tofu Boy comes to life in modern-day Shanghai, in a once-famous but now bedraggled shop where tofu maker Old Wang wonders aloud if having a son would change his life. As for his powers, the animators take advantage of his soy-based nature by giving him the ability to change shape and texture—Mr. Sun told the animators to make him “all consistencies,” Mr. Geiger says. He hardens to pound a nail and transforms into stinky tofu when upset.

There are also occasional nods to more Western sensibilities. One character, regarding Old Wang, says “There are born winners and born losers, and that’s an example of a born loser,” but is countered by another who says, “There’s not only fate and destiny, there’s hope.”

“Kung Fu Panda” was a hit in China because, Ms. Feng says, “in the end, it was about needing to find your own way—not a part of Chinese culture, but a philosophy young Chinese fantasize about.”

This mix of local and potentially global appeal is crucial to the success of “Tofu Boy” and other animation projects in development in China. The country is eager to promote its culture abroad. According to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, China’s 2011 box-office revenue was up 29% from a year earlier, to 13.1 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) though U.S. Hollywood productions still draw the most moviegoers. Other animated series, such as “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf,” are popular within China and other Asian markets but haven’t yet crossed over.

Magic Dumpling is hopeful but realistic. “Can we really draw more than 10 versions of a character and choose the best one?” Ms. Feng says. “Chinese artists are not used to even this simple process. We’re trying to build a good Chinese film step by step. We’re trying to take Chinese culture overseas. In reality, it will be a very slow process.”


Magic Dumpling Partners With Guangdong Design Base

Magic Dumpling President & CEO Kevin Geiger participated in the opening ceremony of the Shunde Comic and Animation R&D Center, a cooperative venture between the Guangdong Industrial Design City and the Beijing Film Academy.

Situated in Guangdong province, the manufacturing epicenter of the world, the Shunde Comic and Animation R&D Center is a new facility dedicated to the development of high quality ancillary animation products.

Members of Magic Dumpling Entertainment, the Beijing Film Academy and the Guangdong Industrial Design City were joined by regional & local officials for the ribbon cutting ceremony and inaugural addresses.

With its partners at the Shunde base, Magic Dumpling Entertainment will co-develop original product lines related to its slate of transmedia properties, beginning with the “Tofu Boy” franchise.

Kevin Geiger commented to Chinese reporters:  “Magic Dumpling’s partnership with the Shunde Comic and Animation R&D Center is an important aspect of our company’s transmedia strategy.  It’s great to be in business in China’s entrepreneurial south, where most of the world’s toys are made, and rewarding to play a role in China’s transition from manufacturing powerhouse to brand originator.”

“Tofu Boy” Director Sun Lijun remarked:  “The opening of the Shunde facility is an important step forward in China’s continued development across all areas of the animation industry, from theatrical presentation to the derivative products.  As Kevin said in his speech this afternoon, the same emotions that drive the animated content must drive the development of related merchandise.”

Saturday is Sun-day

Zhonghua Zhongshan Media’s Dr. Elmer Fung, Chief Planner of the “Dr. Sun” animation project developed by Magic Dumpling Entertainment, appeared at the 11th Annual Beijing Film Academy Awards on Saturday to present a commendation to “Dr. Sun” producer & BFA Animation School dean Sun Lijun.

Dr. Fung and Mr. Sun announced the formation of a charity to ensure that screenings of the “Dr. Sun” animated feature film will be made available to rural Chinese across the mainland.

During his Beijing trip, Dr. Fung met with SARFT Vice-minister Jin Delong, who expressed his appreciation of the goals of the “Dr. Sun” project.

A Visit From Li Changchun

Beijing Film Academy Animation School Dean Sun Lijun introduces China Propaganda Chief Li Changchun to Magic Dumpling President Kevin Geiger.

Li Changchun, Propaganda Chief of the Communist Party of China, paid a visit to Magic Dumpling President Kevin Geiger’s “Animation Creative Development Seminar” during a visit to the Beijing Film Academy on the afternoon of September 5th, 2011.

Mr. Li, who is the 5th ranked member of China’s Politboro Standing Committee, commended Mr. Geiger on his receipt of the 2011 Beijing Great Wall Friendship Award and expressed his appreciation of Geiger’s collaborative efforts with Beijing Film Academy Animation School Dean Sun Lijun to combine Hollywood development principles & production  techniques with Chinese cultural content.

Journey To The East

From Magic Dumpling Entertainment’s main development office in Beijing’s Central Business District, Magic Dumpling President & CEO Kevin Geiger chats candidly with Beijing Radio Corporation’s Radio 774 about his transition from CGI special effects to animation producing, his move from Hollywood to China, his team’s work at Magic Dumpling Entertainment, his high hopes for Chinese animation and his love of Beijing noodles.

Kudos For “Chicken”

Wen Feng

Magic Dumpling Entertainment VP of Development Wen Feng received a special award from Beijing Film Academy Animation School Dean & “Legend of a Rabbit” Director Sun Lijun in honor of the accolades garnered by her BFA student team for their animated short film, “Hong” (aka “Chicken in a Tree”).

“Chicken in a Tree” tells the story of two young brothers who are left in the care of their grandmother and must fend for themselves among friends & bullies after their parents leave for work in another city.

The film has screened throughout China, as well as in Europe, Japan and other international territories – collecting awards and audience appreciation along the way.

Congratulations to Ms. Feng and her team of talented young artists!

Cartoon Network Picks Up A Legend

Sun Lijun

Congratulations to our friend Sun Lijun on the completion and acquisition of his latest 3D animated feature film, "Legend of a Rabbit"!

As reported by Clifford Coonan in Variety:

Mainland Chinese shingle Tianjin North Film Studio has signed a landmark deal with Cartoon Network for the TV rights to the stereoscopic 3D chopsocky toon “Legend of a Rabbit” for Australia, New Zealand, India and Taiwan.
The $12-million “Rabbit” is scheduled to have a day-and-date release in all major Asian markets in late July and will air on Cartoon Network six to eight months after its theatrical release.

“I believe this is the first time that Cartoon Network has acquired a Chinese animated film and it’s the perfect platform for our film,” said Elliot Tong, Tianjin’s head of international distribution.

Animation is experiencing renewed vigor in China, with toons such as “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” and “McDull” doing boffo B.O.

Pic is helmed by Sun Lijun, head of the animation school at Beijing Film Academy, which co-produced along with Beijing Century Butterfly.

“We hope having ‘Legend of a Rabbit’ on Cartoon Network will be a springboard for the life of ‘Rabbit’ on TV,” Tong said.

Magic Dumpling Entertainment President & CEO Kevin Geiger treated German audiences to a teaser of “Legend of a Rabbit” in his “China’s Next 90 Minutes” talk in the “Focus on Chinese Animation” program of the FMX 2011 conference.